Part 3: Easement Gardens Around Ann Arbor growing for environmental, aesthetic reasons


Geoff Robb and his wife, Mary, recently retired from teaching high school at Rudolf Steiner. They have lived in Ann Arbor for 21 years and this year have been more active in their easement garden.

“There was a large elm tree on the easement, which fell down in a storm a few years ago,” explained Robb. “When the city finally removed the stump in the spring of 2017, we planted some perennials in the space, including a number of dahlias, which would benefit from the generous amount of sun available there. The perennials thrived, so we expanded this year, with more dahlias and added zinnias as well as a variety of perennials. I have been growing dahlias for years and I love them because they’re so showy and they produce so many flowers, it’s very satisfying.”

Robb said many people have commented why they are walking by about how much they enjoy the flowers.



“Neighbors have said they appreciate what they add to the neighborhood and we’ve seen people taking photos,” added Robb. “I think that any gardens in the easement add beauty and variety to the streetscape of Dexter Avenue and we may expand even more next year now that we’re retired.”

Ann Arbor City Ordinance on Lawn Extensions

3:15. – Lawn extension and city right-of-way.

The owner of every parcel of land is responsible for grading, planting, mowing and raking the lawn extension in the city right-of-way so that it is covered at least with grass with a height not in excess of 12 inches or with other cultivated herbaceous plants with a foliage height not in excess of 36 inches above the adjacent sidewalk or ground surface except at intersections and along curves, where vegetation must also not present a view hazard based on the criteria in the AASHTO (American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials) Policy on Geometric Design of Highways and Streets, 5th Edition (2005), or as subsequently amended. Flower tops of plants may extend as high as 42 inches, provided viewlines are not obstructed.

Vegetation planted at mid-block crosswalks, bus stops or on pedestrian islands must not exceed a maximum height of 24 inches when blooming. The vegetation must be maintained to ensure an unaccompanied minor, a person in a wheelchair and a person walking a bike can be adequately visible to a driver, based on the AASHTO policy (ref. above).

The city shall not be liable for damage to any vegetation planted, or to any property or fixtures placed, in or upon the city right-of-way that results from work performed by the city in the lawn extension or right-of-way.

This is Part 3 of a three-part series from WeLoveAnnArbor by local writer Donna Marie Iadipaolo focusing on the growing number of easement gardens proliferating around Ann Arbor.

Donna Marie Iadipaolo (M.A., M.S.) is a professional educator and journalist and a regular contributor to 


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